There are several good games on tap for this week. (Home Team in ALL CAPS.)
Last week: 4-3, Overall record: 37-13
LSU vs. McNeese State
LSU went from the stupidest program in the top 10 to the luckiest with a win over Florida. They get a tune up before a potential SEC West showdown against Auburn next week. This one not even Les Miles’ playcalling can make interesting.
LSU 44, McNeesse State 3
FLORIDA vs. Mississippi State
Florida hit the skids for two weeks, throttled by SEC West foes Alabama and LSU. Now, Urban Meyer must face his former OC Dan Mullen and much improved Bulldogs squad. Florida’s problems on offense are well documented, but that defense, in spite of two lackluster weeks, is still very good. The key for Florida on offense is to establish the run and set up the short passing game to wear out the Bulldogs defense. Mississippi State is going to come out and try to prove something against Florida but they still don’t have the playmakers on either side of the ball to do enough damage to the Gators to win this one. It might be close early but Florida’s superior speed will be too much for Mississippi State.
Florida 27, Mississippi State 13
GEORGIA vs. Vanderbilt
Georgia fans are feeling good about their situation after drubbing an emotionally drained and physically weaker Tennessee team. Good for them. Problem is Georgia players can’t stay out of trouble off the field. (Bulldogs RB Caleb King was arrested for an unresolved traffic issue. Maybe Mark Richt should confiscate all keys.) Vanderbilt won big against hapless Eastern Michigan and will fight the Bulldogs tooth and nail for four quarters. However, just like last week, Georgia’s superior athletes will be more than enough to notch a victory.
Georgia 36, Vanderbilt 16
ALABAMA vs. Ole Miss
Ole Miss is the second team in a row to have an off week before facing Alabama, a team reeling after a stunning loss to South Carolina. Make no mistake though, Ole Miss, while improved, is still not very good.
Alabama, while not invincible, is as loaded with talent as any team in the country. And now they have an edge, something to prove when playing. Jeremiah Masoli (Ole Miss QB). He will try to make things happen with his feet but he’ll find the Crimson Tide defense more than hungry to prove that last week’s rushing totals were the exception, not the new rule. On offense, Alabama will need to get back to establishing the running game (which means more than 17 carries between the two best backs in the league). Expect Nick Saban to have Alabama fired up and ready to roll over the Rebels in this one.
Alabama 44, Ole Miss 10
KENTUCKY vs. South Carolina
Big Blue came very close to knocking off undefeated Auburn last week and they’ll be looking to cash in against the Gamecocks, who will undoubtedly be prime for a let down after last week’s victory over Alabama. For Kentucky, the defense has to find a way to get in the backfield, which will disrupt running lanes and force Stephen Garcia into mistakes. (Yes, he had a great game last week but that’s the anomaly in his career and not the usual.) On offense, give Mike Hartline time to work the ball to Derek Locke and Randall Cobb.
South Carolina’s defense is very salty but they are not perfect–see the Auburn game. So plays can be had by a patient attack. For the Gamecocks, this is all about controlling emotion and not becoming complacent. They can’t just show up and win. This will be a close game but in the end, South Carolina’s defense is good enough to limit what Kentucky can do and that’ll give the Gamecocks enough of an edge to garner the win.
South Carolina 20, Kentucky 16
AUBURN vs. Arkansas
Auburn’s offense, led by QB Cam Newton, is a real mystery. He can run the ball, the line can spring the other running backs, and the receivers make big plays down the field. Yet, for some unknown reason, Auburn takes their foot off the gas. Last year that was because of a thin, weak defense. This year, the defense isn’t great, but they’ve found a way to limit most big plays. That’s the puzzle.
Arkansas is exactly who most thought they would be: an offensive juggernaut with a mediocre (or sometimes worse) defense susceptible to wearing down against the run late in a game, but also capable of turnovers when needed (see Texas A&M). Arkansas’s Ryan Mallett will be licking his chops to shred the Auburn pass defenders but he’ll have to settle for the underneath stuff that Auburn allows instead of forcing throws into coverage–even bad coverage–in order to avoid turnovers. Both teams want this to be a fastbreak, light up the scoreboard game, and the team that limits mistakes will be the winner. Arkansas has done this to Auburn before and they’ll do it again Saturday.
Arkansas 30, Auburn 27